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Walton still trippin
Some of you might have seen this before. This was just sent to me from
a friend I fondly know of as Grateful Chef. Having been to a few Dead
shows back in the 80's, I cracked up when I read this.
ESPN Getting Tired of Walton Grateful Dead References
Bristol, CT -- In a confidential memo leaked to the press Tuesday
morning, executives at ESPN expressed growing concern about incessant
references to legendary counterculture rock band, the Grateful Dead,
made by NBA analyst and lifelong "Deadhead," Bill Walton.
"If we could all make an effort to help Bill reduce the number of
references to Grateful Dead lyrics, concerts he's attended, and past
and present band members throughout an average broadcast," the memo
said, "it would go a long way toward bringing more viewers to Fridays
[ESPN's Friday Night NBA coverage]."
"Seriously, I'm not kidding here," the memo continued, "it's got to
stop. Before we all gouge our own eyes out with sporks."
While the memo is believed to have been sent by ESPN executive vice
president of programming/production, Mark Shapiro,
anti-Walton-Dead-reference sentiment has been growing company-wide
since ESPN began covering NBA games this season.
"If he tells me one more time how he did mescaline with Mama Cass and
David Crosby backstage at the Greek Theater, Berkeley, '71, I'm gong to
smack him," said Walton's broadcast partner, Mike Tirico. "And that's
exactly how he always says it, too: 'Greek
TheaterBerkeley.seventy-one,' and then he starts grinning and grooving
to some Dead music in his head, going, 'Yeaaaah, man.yeaaaah' like a
"The guy's, what, fifty-one?" Tirico added. "Hey Bill, the 'Summer of
Love' ended thirty-three years ago. Time to move on, pal."
Shapiro's memo also indicated that Walton's references to songs,
concerts, people and events from more than three decades ago is not
helping ESPN's NBA Friday night ratings.
"We're targeting a younger demographic," Shapiro's memo said, "so if
you could all please remind Bill that today's 18- to 24-year-old viewer
simply does not care that it's the 13th anniversary of [Grateful Dead
keyboardist] Brent Mydland's death. They don't care who Ron 'Pigen'
McKernan was, and don't understand why Bill is comparing Pigpen's
leadership abilities in the Dead's formative Haight-Ashbury years to
Jason Kidd's ability to run the Nets offense."
"No wonder we're losing Friday viewers to 'John Doe.' Why? Because
'John Doe' doesn't have some sad, aging, hippie freakster spewing
Robert Hunter lyrics every three seconds."
While ESPN management had been initially lenient with the random
Grateful Dead trivia, facts, and anecdotes that Walton began injecting
into broadcasts for no apparent reason, insiders believe that it was
the recent Bulls-Wizards matchup-which featured Michael Jordan's last
appearance in Chicago-that was the last straw for Shapiro.
Toward the end of the game, Walton managed to shoehorn approximately
168 Grateful Dead mentions into a seemingly endless monologue.
"While these great Chicago fans hope to see Michael 'One More Saturday
Night' perhaps in the playoffs, he's beginning to show a 'Touch of
Grey' in his hair, and while I've always believed that Michael must be
a 'Friend of the Devil' to have had such a wonderful career, and he
still plays with the aggression of a 'Wharf Rat,' his 'Unbroken Chain'
of success must come to an end. But his legacy will 'Not Fade Away'
even as he disappears down the 'Golden Road.' For us fans, there's
'nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile.'"
Tape of the broadcast then shows a visibly confused Tirico about to
open his mouth to speak, but being immediately cut off by the former
UCLA, Portland Trailblazers and Boston Celtics star.
"This is horrrrrible, Mike, just horrrrible," Walton nearly screamed.
"I fear the NBA will go to 'Hell in a Bucket' without Michael, and the
'Eyes of the World' will be upon the next generation of NBA superstars,
and David Stern is clearly saying 'I Need a Miracle' to the Kobes, the
Garnetts, the McGradys, even the Lebron Jameses of the world, hoping
that MJ's retirement doesn't lead to a serious case of the 'U.S. Blues'
for NBA fans."
Walton then made a tangental reference to Michael's wife "Althea," and
three children-"Bertha," "Casey Jones," and "Tennessee Jed"-all of
whom, he claimed, were in the United Center that evening. When Tirico
informed Walton that Jordan's wife is, in fact, named Juanita and his
children are Jeffrey, Marcus and Jasmine, Walton paused.
"Hey now, Mike," Walton said, "hey now, Aiko Aiko all day, jockomo
feeno na na nay, jockomo feena nay. Hey now--"
It was then that ESPN producers abruptly cut to an emergency broadcast
system test pattern, then back to ESPN studio analysts, David Aldridge
and Dr. Jack Ramsey.
"Well, I." Aldridge said, awkwardly shuffling papers and clearing his
"Did Bill just say that Michael Jordan's son is named 'TennesseeJed,'"
While Shapiro is clearly concerned about the effect Walton's Grateful
Dead over-referencing will have on the success of ESPN's Friday night
NBA coverage, he admitted in a later interview that it could be worse.
"At least he's not mixing in John Wooden stuff, too. I mean, can you
imagine if he combined all that Jerry Garcia bullshit with his
incessant Wooden motivational quotes? Christ Almighty."
Shapiro then shuddered.